Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Analytics phobia or fear of numbers is a real condition called Arithmophobia or Numerophobia. If you are affected by this type of phobia or just plain do not like looking at the data you have collected for your website, it is time to face that fear with small steps toward understanding.
Many of the clients I have helped through the search engine optimization (SEO) process have avoided looking at the data collected in their analytics platform. However, looking at your data is extremely important to understand whether your website is working or not.
In this article, I have put together 2 exercises that will give you a hands-on approach to using Google Analytics to understand 2 different concepts.
The first exercise will have you look at traffic over one month—what to look for and what it tells you.
The second exercise will have you investigating organic traffic and why it is essential for this number to be higher than the other numbers.
But first a little background and explanation of traffic.
Analytics Exercises for Beginners
Using tools that help you understand how people interact with your website is essential to developing a winning SEO and Content Marketing Strategy.
Google Analytics (GA) is a great tool to view your site's data. The best SEO decisions are made after examining your website details.
With these figures, you can study the traffic and user behavior of visitors to your website. When you check these figures, you may see some of the following information:
• Traffic spikes – telling you what is working in your marketing strategy. You want to use this information to create or improve the content, campaigns, and landing pages. You can learn quite a bit from these details.
• Traffic sources – location, country, city, laptop, mobile phone, direct, referral, and organic will alert you to the changes you need to make and the content you supply. For example, the location could tell you if you need to follow rule-specific marketing guidelines or that maybe you need to change who you are targeting.
• Visitor information – when you observe your visitors' traits, you can tailor your content to your customer's needs. For example, customer behavior can tell you how your customers came to your site, how long they stayed, what pages they looked at, how quickly they left, and much more. However, visitor information does NOT tell you any specific names or addresses.
The biggest challenge with data collection programs is the amount of information they collect. There are copious amounts of figures to look at but do not let that scare you. If you are already collecting data and ignoring it, it is time to look at your figures with these 2 simple exercises below:
If you want to learn about all the different information types, take the online course Google offers. An excellent place to begin is at the beginning.
If you do not need to get deep into figures for your site, pay attention to the traffic and user data. The statistics from traffic and users should be enough to help make informed decisions about improving the site.
What is traffic?
Website traffic is a visitor or user who visits your site using a search engine with a URL or keyword phrase. Google and Bing are two of the most popular search engines, but many more to choose from. Organic traffic and direct traffic are 2 different numbers. Organic traffic is from search engine keyword phrases. Direct traffic is from entering the URL directly into a browser.
What is organic traffic?
Organic traffic comes from search engines when using keyword phrase searches. Users come to your website from a search. Organic traffic is not from paid ads. Paid advertising is referred to as Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or Cost-Per-Click (CPC.)
Inbound marketing or content marketing is the most popular way of increasing organic traffic. When you continually add new custom content to your website, you will improve your organic search results.
Traffic Sources Explained
Source: the origin of traffic to your website.
A source can be a search engine like Google, a social media site like Facebook (referring site), a newsletter, or direct. Users put your URL into the browser to go to your website or use a hyperlink to visit your site from a different site, article, or social media.
Medium: is the type of source.
Organic – not paid
CPC – cost per click or paid ads
Referral – from any other site, including social media or a link within the content on a website (hyperlink)
Email – something you created for an email campaign
None or other – traffic that does not fit into the "other" mediums
Keyword Phrase: search terms used to find a topic in a search engine
Campaign: something you create that sends traffic to your site, usually with a theme carried over from the landing webpage to social media and PPC ads.
Content: Copy, photos, artwork, and videos you place on your web pages. You can set up content goal tracking in your analytics account.
TRAFFIC INFORMATION – HANDS-ON • EXERCISE 1
NOTE: To work correctly, you will need to have data collected in GA for at least 6 to 12 months before doing this exercise.
In your Google Analytics program, go to:
Select Audience in the left column
Looking at traffics trends will help you see what is happening over time.
If the numbers in this example look small, do not worry; these are focused, targeted users looking for your products and services. On the other hand, large numbers may indicate your audience is too broad.
What does the above snapshot tell you?
Something happened in July that increased the number of site users.
Do you think whatever happened in July is a good thing, and should it be done again?
The answer would be yes; do it again. There was a campaign on social media that brought in more views. This upswing in numbers suggests that a new social media campaign might be successful. What you would want to do now is a study of that campaign to figure out how to improve it for even better results.
If you look at the Bounce Rate (BR), that number is 66.89%. This number suggests the users found what they wanted. 33.11% of users stayed longer, used more than one session, and went on to look at other pages on the website. If you have a high BR, users leave your site right away. Although 33.11% is a good outcome, it could be better.
What you learned from this viewing the above graphics;
The social media campaign did well.
Many new users visited the site during the campaign
Traffic dropped off in August and September
Designing a new social media campaign is a good idea
Visitors are interested in what they found in the content
This particular site is building its brand, and social media is one way to do that.
Testing this theory is easy to do by creating a new campaign for social media. Looking at the July campaign will provide ideas for what works and how you could do better. After the new campaign has ended, compare the numbers from both campaigns. Hopefully, the numbers are increasing.
The above exercise gives you a general idea of the power of data.
Another way to see if your site is working is your organic traffic numbers.
Are Your Organic Traffic Numbers Increasing?
SEO is about getting organic traffic to your website. Month after month, you should see your organic traffic rising. Organic traffic is the traffic that found your site through search engines—not paid advertising or social media.
TRAFFIC – HANDS-ON • EXERCISE 2
NOTE: For this to work correctly, you will need to have data collected in GA for at least 6 to 12 months before doing this exercise.
How Many People Found Your Website Through Search, Organically?
In your Google Analytics program, go to:
Acquisition, the left side column
Page or Item you want to review
If your SEO is working, the most extensive channel should be organic.
Below the graphic is more information about each channel (not shown here);
A good website should have a mix of all four, but the largest channel should be organic search. If it is not your largest channel, you will need to review your SEO and correct any errors, update keywords and copy, and in some cases, redesign the site; redesign should be the last resort.
For a more in-depth look at your Channel numbers, go to:
Set the dates you want to study in the upper right corner
There you go, more numbers to digest!
The Following Is What You Can Learn from Reviewing Your Data:
Marketing Campaign Optimization
Measuring marketing campaigns is a must-do project. Use the collected facts to improve future campaigns.
You will see if a campaign is getting you the results you wanted or not.
You will know if you are reaching your goals.
You might also see if there is a negative impact.
Use the Behavior and Conversions reports to see if users are spending time on your web pages.
Is there customer engagement?
How much time are they spending? Enough time to read the content you provide?
Did they interact with your call-to-action?
What type the device are they using to reach your website?
Demographics and Insights
Age and Gender
Location (country, state, city)
Technology (browser, operating system, internet provider)
User Flow (how visitors traveled through your website)
Unique or New Visitors
Average Visit Duration
Percent of New Visitors
Bounce Rate – a high BR is an indication that visitors are not finding relevant information or the content they are searching to find. The high BR means the web page content may need work to provide better information and knowledge.
How Visitors Found Your Site
Organic Search (from a search engine)
Ads (ads you are running, PPC)
Referrals (from another site)
After you have reviewed your data, you will understand what your site needs for improvement. Determining a budget becomes more comfortable when you know what improvements to make based on your data. Without the data, you are playing a guessing game.
Data is Key to How Your Site is Working and How it Will Succeed.
If you do not have a data program set up, it is time to set it up. If you have a data collection program set up, it is time to look at the numbers regularly. Looking over just a few sets of numbers will get you going in the right direction. The more you use the data, the more familiar you will get with the program and the numbers in each section.
Please do not ignore your data; these numbers are the key to your site's success. In addition, the numbers help you make better marketing decisions.
About the Author
Wendy Danko is an SEO and Web Design Consultant at WenKo LLC. Having a design background has its perks, especially when it comes to website design and SEO. Wendy is determined to help every one of her clients improve their website and SEO. With website improvements, her clients have uncovered new leads to grow their client base.